Saying No to a Role: Does That Make Me a Diva?

  • Holly Lucas

Saying no to roles and jobs can be really difficult sometimes, especially in this overcrowded industry where such opportunities can be infrequent. It might feel like you have no choice - you need the money, the credits, the production team will be left in the lurch if you drop out. There’s always a reason to talk yourself into saying yes, even when you don’t want to. But saying no to something doesn’t make you a bad person, or make you ungrateful in any way. You’re allowed to say no - it’s just saying it out loud that can be hard sometimes.

The classic scenario is auditioning for a role in a show, but you didn’t get it. Instead, you were offered another part or a place in the ensemble. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of the chorus - when it’s done well, they can steal the show - and many times I’ve not gotten parts and ended up swinging my arms in the back. If you think your initial hurt is just an immediate reaction to the disappointment of not getting what you wanted, take a few days to think about it before turning it down. A lot of the reason I perform in amdram groups is for the social side - I’ve made so many new friends and always have a laugh during a production which spurs me on to continue no matter what.

On the other hand, if your heart was set on that part and you feel like watching someone else doing it will be too hard, just say no. Take time to think about it, but in the end, if your gut feeling is saying, ‘this show is a huge commitment for a part I don’t want,’ just say no. Who cares if people judge you? It doesn’t make you a diva. It means you’re looking after your mental health and what’s wrong with that?

This unspoken idea that you have to say yes to everything, especially if you’re just starting out, is something that can affect your mental health. Mental health awareness is something we’re very passionate about, particularly as performers, because at some point down the line, everyone has had to deal with their own demons.

My first professional performing job was only a couple of years ago; a two-month one-woman tour around care and residential homes. When I initially got the job I was really excited - I’d finally got some work performing so immediately said yes! Over the next few weeks, I started doing a bit of research and began questioning whether I’d made the right choice, and in the rehearsal week, I started having second thoughts entirely. My gut feeling was telling me to pull out, but because I’d already agreed to do it, the guilt train in my brain stopped me. So I carried on.

The next two months, I could barely force myself to go out the door. I literally had to have a pep talk with my partner before leaving each day because I didn’t want to go. The show itself was fine, but the long days that were mostly spent in the car stuck inside my head (and traffic), plus endless pressure from the top, ended up shooting my anxiety through the roof. I put my mental health at risk because I felt like I couldn’t say no. Even now I get anxious answering the phone to people. How stupid is that?!

Do not be made to feel like a bad person for not wanting to do something. Communication is key. If you want to say no to something, tell them why, even if it’s just simply that you don’t want to do it. People are generally more understanding (most of the time) if you say it how it is and communicate how you feel. Don’t lie about your reason for saying no because there’s no point. That achieves nothing. Honesty is always the best.

Saying no doesn’t make you a diva. You are responsible for you. Follow your gut feeling because it’s usually always right.